The New York Yankees might have their focus on Aaron Judge and a potential elite starting pitcher, but their aggressive nature may dwindle, with big names expected to come off the board early.
A more realistic approach for the Yankees would be to sign a few solid players rather than one big name that will cost them in excess of $30 million per season. Of course, Judge remains their primary target, but a few realistic free-agent acquisitions could help boost the team significantly.
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Three realistic free agents the Yankees could target:
1.) Andrew Benintendi
Retaining Benintendi is a very realistic scenario for the Bombers, having acquired him at the deadline this past summer. Benintendi hit .304 with a 37.3% on-base rate, including five homers and 51 RBIs over 126 games.
The 28-year-old left fielder struggled wearing pinstripes, hitting .254 with a 33% on-base rate, but over the course of a full season, he is projected to return to his normal efficiency. In addition, Benintendi is a proven playoff contributor, something the Yankees desperately need moving forward.
Defensively, he is a proven commodity, posting a perfect fielding percentage in 2022 with two defensive runs saved above average. His lefty bat and elite contact hitting would help drive in more runs, especially if manager Aaron Boone slots him in ahead of Judge at the top of the order. There’s a lot the Yankees can do to extrapolate on Benintendi‘s qualities, and he’s exactly the type of asset they need to maximize their batting order.
2.) Chris Bassitt
If the Yankees miss out on Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon, they could look to the second tier of starting pitchers. One attractive option is Chris Bassitt, who is set to leave the New York Mets. At 33 years old, he earned a 3.42 ERA this past season over 181.2 innings. In addition, he hosted 8.27 strikeouts per nine and a 77.2% left-on-base rate with a 48.8% ground ball rate.
Seemingly, Bassitt is a more efficient version of Jameson Taillon, given his wide variety of pitches, he utilizes a sinker, cutter, slider, curveball, and 4-seam approach. He also mixes in a change up at 6.1% usage. With that type of pitch sequence, Bassitt has plenty of options he can rely on as he ages, and all of his pitches are rather efficient.
In fact, if the Yankees end up retaining pitching coach Matt Blake, they may want to expand on his sinker, which generated a .260 batting average with a 15.2% whiff rate this past season.
The Mets extended the $19.56 million qualifying offer to Bassitt, but he’s headed for a deal that will likely reach a bit over $20 million per season. If the Yankees strike out on Rodon, he is a great alternative, and having pitched in New York already, his transition would be simple.
3.) Andrew Chafin
Management has already indicated they are searching for more bullpen support, which makes 32-year-old Andrew Chafin a prime option on the free agent market.
Chafin featured with the Detroit Tigers in 2022, logging a 2.83 ERA across 57.1 innings. He struck out 10.52 straight batters per nine with a 70% left-on-base right and 51.3% ground ball rate. Altogether, he was an effective bullpen arm and even hosted a 1.83 ERA in 2021 with Chicago and Oakland.
Chafin utilizes a sinker, slider, and 4-seam combination. He’s not particularly a high-velocity pitcher but generates plenty of weak contact, earning a career-high 6.5% weak hit percentage this past season.
He may be a more cost-efficient option for the Yankees, and having lost Zack Britton, Aroldis Chapman, and Miguel Castro this off-season, they desperately need more support on the backend.